Friday, May 23, 2008

Giles makes elusive regional

The Spartans, bounced in the semifinals the past two years, play Glenvar for the championship.

Giles player Sheldon Douthat slides safely into home before Auburn's pitcher Nathan Vaughn can get him out during the bottom of the second inning during their game at Kiwanis Field in Salem.


Giles player Sheldon Douthat slides safely into home before Auburn's pitcher Nathan Vaughn can get him out during the bottom of the second inning during their game at Kiwanis Field in Salem.

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In 24 seasons as Giles baseball coach, Bruce Frazier had made more than his share of regional appearances.

None of his current players has experienced that sensation.

"We've been in a spot the last two years where we had to win [in the semifinals] and just came up short both times," Spartans pitcher Zach Atkins said. "I know how it feels when you come close like that, and I didn't want to feel that way again."

Atkins also clubbed a two-run homer in the first inning in Giles' 6-1 victory over Auburn in the Three Rivers District tournament.

Atkins, who limited the Eagles to three hits over six innings, had been the losing pitcher in a semifinal loss to Radford in 2007. The Bobcats also sidelined the Spartans in 2006.

"In all fairness, Radford was the higher-seeded team in both of those games," Frazier said.

Giles (11-9-1) came into this year's tournament as the second seed and will meet top-seeded Glenvar (18-3) in the championship game at 4:30 p.m. today at Salem's Kiwanis Field.

The Highlanders defeated Radford 9-5 behind slugging Jim McGuire, who homered in each of the first two innings.

Glenvar already had clinched a regional berth by virtue of its regular-season championship, and will entertain Fort Chiswell on Tuesday in the first round of the Region C playoffs. Giles will visit Grayson County.

Giles had beaten Auburn twice during the regular season, but Frazier had worried how his team might fare against Eagles' starter Nathan Vaughn, who had shut down the Spartans during one relief appearance.

Vaughn struggled with his control, issuing five walks in the first two innings, which enabled Giles to score four runs on only two hits.

"I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked, so it helped to have a nice lead," said Atkins, who added that his fifth home run of the season also provided "a little confidence boost."

The Spartans went with their No. 1 starter Atkins because of the importance of the game, although it will be nice to have an extra day's rest after throwing 116 pitches. Gavin Lee will start against Glenvar, which beat Giles twice during the regular season.

Glenvar coach Brian Crockett also went with his ace, Eric Austin, but that was mostly to have him fresh for Fort Chiswell. Regional appearances have been almost automatic for the Highlanders in recent years.

"I think we've been to regionals for the past 18 or 19 years," said McGuire, who reached base in all four of his plate appearances, including walks in his final two at-bats.

Radford hopes for an upset Thursday were thwarted early in the week, when tentative starter Patrick Webb learned he had mononucleosis. Webb was in uniform but did not play.

"He had pitched really well against Glenvar previously," said coach Darden Freeman, whose Bobcats finished 7-13, "but I don't want to make too much of it. It sounds like we're making excuses. Glenvar has an outstanding team."

Crockett will throw either Anthony Ratliff or Jared McGhee today, part of what Giles' Frazier describes as "a stable" of quality Glenvar hurlers.

Frazier knows quality, having taken teams to the regionals as many as 10 times, by his count. However, the Spartans' last appearance before this year was in 2002.

"I never took any of it for granted," he said. "This is one of the best baseball districts around."

Radford 010 011 2 -- 5 6 4

Glenvar 132 120 x -- 9 10 3

Turner, Sowers (3), McCown (4), Hardy(6) and Matusevich. Austin, Holthouser (6), McGhee (7) and Johnson. W -- Austin. L -- Turner. HR -- McGuire (G) 2, Woods (R).

Auburn 000 010 0 -- 1 4 1

Giles 221 100 x -- 6 5 2

Vaughn, Kenley (3) and Duncan. Z. Atkins, Cook (7) and M. Atkins. W -- Z. Atkins. L -- Vaughn. HR -- Z. Atkins (G).

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